Every year, you get a chance to review your coverage to make sure it's working as well as it can for you. This year's open enrollment period began Monday and runs through Dec. 7.
Most people simply stick with their current coverage. And that's fine if the plan you chose gave you the coverage you needed at reasonable prices, and access to high-quality care in locations that were convenient for you. As the Medicare website suggests, these are some of the important factors to use in evaluating a plan.
But if any of those favorable traits were missing, it's worth it to look at what else is available. You'll almost always have enough plans to choose from that you'll be able to find at least one that will work well for you.
How to Pick a Better Plan
Shopping for health insurance is difficult even for those who are generally comfortable with financial affairs.
While you may have certain medical conditions or prescription drug needs that you already know about, it's impossible to guess with certainty what types of health care you'll need in the coming year. Moreover, finding the most important information -- and figuring out exactly what a given plan will cover -- can be a big challenge.
One good place to start is the Medicare Plan Finder, which allows you not only to determine which plans are available to you, but also to compare their features against one another.
As you review the information the finder gives you, pay special attention to the following:
- The monthly premiums you'll pay, both for your regular health plan as well as for any prescription drug coverage.
- Any deductibles you may be responsible for out of your own pocket before coverage kicks in, and what portion of any additional charges you'll have to pay as well.
- Whether you can pick your own doctor.
- Whether the plan covers the particular prescription drugs you need, as well as whether they're available in cheaper generic form and whether an approved pharmacy is nearby.
On the other hand, don't forget to take a look at the other end of the spectrum: What will your maximum out-of-pocket expenses will be if you end up having a catastrophic event or other injuries or illnesses requiring extensive and expensive care? Ideally, you'll be able to find a plan that leaves you with low enough maximum liability that you can cover it from savings.
Don't Pass Up This Opportunity
It can be tempting just to coast through open enrollment without even thinking about making changes. All too often, however, Medicare recipients waste money by sticking with plans that aren't right for them.
By spending a little time and taking advantage of the resources at your disposal, you can make sure you'll get the best coverage at the lowest cost. Be sure to visit the Medicare website for more information.